Somehow, we're already just over halfway through 2016! Heading into the New Year, many digital marketers and analysts predicted that we would see some of the biggest changes in digital marketing yet. So, how have things shaken out so far? I turned to Brian Solis of Altimeter Group, Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, and Adam Berke of AdRoll to find out.
As of now, the most common use of artificial intelligence in marketing has been in the form of machine learning. Programmatic buying arose as one of the most prevalent uses of machine learning a few years ago, and other uses of AI include predictive customer service, recommendations, and content curation.
According to AdRoll CMO Adam Berke, the key to AI is understanding what it does and doesn't do - especially in regards to advertising.
"Advertising, even as we move into a digital data-driven paradigm, still involves strategy and creativity," he said. "While machines can be powerful to make real-time decisions and remove human bias, the element of strategy needs to be inputted into whatever system you're using."
The lesson? Even in 2016, AI and machine learning won't get you results without your own touch of strategy and creativity.
It certainly feels like Snapchat is everywhere this year. Whether sponsoring Cannes Lions Innovation, releasing new features, or taking over older generations, there's no denying the social network is ubiquitous. Its monthly active user base just hit 300 million, making it an attractive platform for advertisers.
Even with all the hype and momentum, Snapchat is still very much in its youth.
"There's a lot of excitement around Snapchat right now and a lot of positive characteristics of the platform," Berke said. "It's an engaged audience and the ad formats are compelling to certain types of marketers. I think it's extremely early in the trajectory of that platform; they're just getting up and running, campaigns have been run manually, and the API is still being built."
Keep your eyes out for more updates to Snapchat's API and advertising solutions this year - once improvements are made there, expect to see even more growth.
It feels like every year for the past five years was proclaimed "The Year of Mobile." This year, that proclamation came true. Brands have put concerted effort into reaching consumers on the devices they actually use.
According to Berke, we've reached a tipping point this year.
"The root interest in mobile is that it's where the audience is," Berke said. "I think it's a situation where the consumer behaviors have been way out ahead of the marketing tools and knowhow, so that's why there's been a lot of excitement but not a lot of traction."
Marketers are getting savvier with mobile strategies, too. Think With Google has released extensive research on micro-moments - fleeting instances that occur whenever a consumer grabs their phone to look something up, make a purchase, go somewhere, or any of the many things we use our phones to do. The crux of micro-moments is the ability for a brand to win the ones that matter with engaging, useful content.
For the rest of the year, marketers will further refine their mobile strategies around clearly defined objectives and metrics.
Consumers no longer think personalized marketing is creepy. In fact, 73% of them prefer brands that use information to personalize their shopping experiences. Why? Because consumers demand immediacy and expect brands to meet their context.
"Personalization can result in a better user experience," Berke said. "Whether it be marketing or in-app or on-site experiences, you can tailor those based on what you know about that user and that can result in a much better relationship with that customer."
Personalization also gives marketers more freedom with their content - they don't have to stick to a rigid content schedule organized by theme. And that freedom is a good thing, according to Brian Solis, a top analyst at Altimeter Group.
"Marketing calendars make you think about quantity, not quality," he said. "They are not drivers for earning meaningful attention and engagement. Your customers are already overwhelmed with mediocrity, so don't flood them with more."
The best way to stand out to them? Treat them as the individuals they actually are with personalized marketing.
We've probably read just as much about the death of email marketing as we have the year of mobile. Why? Probably because consumers see nearly 250 marketing messages each day, the majority of which are email newsletters and updates.
That doesn't mean email is dead; it does mean marketers need to do better with email marketing.
What's the best way to make emails better? Keeping them relevant to consumers' context. Marketers using segmented email campaigns report a 760% increase in revenue. The more granular you can get with segments, the better. As noted above, personalization is a top trend for the year and will only continue to increase in importance.
Another way marketers can do better with email marketing is through creating opt-in audiences, according to Content Marketing Institute's Joe Pulizzi.
"I'm most excited and focused on building an opt-in audience with email," he said. "There is so much bad email out there, that actually cutting through the clutter with an amazing email newsletter is possible today."
By building an opt-in audience, you create an engaged subscriber base. In fact, letting your subscribers churn can actually improve your marketing.
Marketers know email marketing isn't really going anywhere, for now, so expect to see email marketing become increasingly segment and personalized.